Guide to Nor/Cen-Cal Ovals

 Time trials at Hayfork Speedway.

Time trials at Hayfork Speedway.

Where to find weekly auto racing at local short tracks

Text: Steve Kowalski • Photos: Saroyan Humphrey

Spotlight  |  Grassroots racing has a long-standing history in the motorsports landscape of Northern and Central California. Between Yreka and Bakersfield there are currently 24 active dirt and paved short tracks (as of May 2018) , between a quarter and a half-mile in length, delivering exciting action on any given weekend during racing season. Sprint cars, midgets and stock cars roar to life at these (mostly fairgrounds-based) tracks—where you won’t find million-dollar sponsorships or celebrity drivers, just racers doing it for the love of going fast, having fun and of course, winning. 

From February to November, you can witness great racing and some of the best rising talent at tracks north of Grapevine Pass. The names and machines may have changed over the years but the thrill of the roar remains the same. 


Dirt

Dirt tracks outnumber paved tracks over 2-1 in this region of California. With 19 currently active tracks featuring the lightning-fast, open-wheel sprints and midgets, and/or IMCA modified stock cars, this is where you’ll find some of the most competitive racing in the state. “Dirt’s for racing, asphalt’s for getting there….”

 

American Valley Speedway

 In the pits at American Valley Speedway.

In the pits at American Valley Speedway.

Quincy, CA • Plumas County Fairgrounds
0.375-mile slightly banked clay oval
Most Saturday nights, April-October
Weekly divisions: Modifieds, Sport Mods, Hobby Stocks, Mini Stocks, Dwarf

Highlights
• One of the fastest dirt tracks in Nor-Cal.
• Beautifully secluded in the Sierra Nevada.
• Laid-back atmosphere in wooded fairgrounds.
• Competitive weekly racing in all classes.

 

Antioch Speedway

 Winged 410 sprints on the front straight at Antioch.

Winged 410 sprints on the front straight at Antioch.

Antioch, CA • Contra Costa County Fairgrounds
0.375-mile banked clay oval
Most Saturday nights, March-September
Weekly divisions: Winged Sprints, Spec Sprints, Late Models, Modifieds, Sport Mods, Hobby Stocks, Hard Tops, Dwarf

Highlights
• Racing weekly since 1961, Antioch features a wide range of racing divisons.
• One of three remaining speedways in the greater San Francisco Bay Area.
• Features IMCA and NARC sprint and stock car events.
• Active weekly schedule for many divisions.

 

Bakersfield Speedway

 IMCA Modifieds accelerate out of turn two at Bakersfield.

IMCA Modifieds accelerate out of turn two at Bakersfield.

Bakersfield, CA
0.333-mile banked clay oval
Most Saturday nights, March-October
Weekly divisions: Modifieds, Sport Mods, Mod Lites, Late Models, Hobby Stocks, American Stocks, Stock Cars, Dwarf

Highlights
• Opening in 1946, Bakersfield is the longest continuously operated speedway in California, and has been both paved and dirt over the years.
• Some of auto racing’s biggest names have raced at Bakersfield, including Billy Vukovich, Ray Elder, Steve Kinser and Tony Stewart.
•  Bakersfield features IMCA and USAC special events for stock car and open-wheel racers.
• A highly competitive Central Valley racing hub, also known as the “Okie Bowl.”

 

Calistoga Speedway

 The start of a winged 410 sprint main event at Calistoga.

The start of a winged 410 sprint main event at Calistoga.

Calistoga, CA • Napa County Fairgrounds
0.5-mile banked clay oval
Special events only, March-September

Highlights
• Hosts prestigous USAC, BCRA, World of Outlaws and NARC open-wheel events with top-notch drivers and teams.
• The fastest and longest dirt track in California.
• Held its first auto race in 1938, and is the birthplace of organized auto racing in Northern California.
• Recently refurbished, the historic speedway offers racers and fans a new and improved venue for racing.
• Calistoga’s picturesque setting makes it popular with both racers and fans.

 

Chowchilla Speedway

 Sport Mods duel on Chowchilla’s backstretch.

Sport Mods duel on Chowchilla’s backstretch.

Chowchilla, CA • Chowchilla Fairgrounds
0.33-mile banked clay oval
Sunday afternoons, March-September

Highlights
• Reopened in 2017, sixth different promoter since 2000.
• Features open-wheel and stock cars on alternating weekends.
• Located on US-99 between Madera and Merced.

 

Diamond Mountain Speedway

 Hobby stock track champ Richard Longacre at Susanville, 2015.

Hobby stock track champ Richard Longacre at Susanville, 2015.

Susanville, CA • Lassen County Fairgrounds
0.25-mile banked clay oval
Most Saturday nights, April-September
Weekly divisions: Modifieds, Hobby Stocks, Mini Stocks.

Highlights
• Refreshed track surface makes the racing fast and exciting.
• Good-natured, laid-back atmosphere.
• Competitive weekly racing in all divisions.

 

Hayfork Speedway

 Mike Kephart dusts the hobby stock field at Hayfork.

Mike Kephart dusts the hobby stock field at Hayfork.

Hayfork, CA • Trinity County Fairgrounds
0.375-mile dirt oval
Most Saturday nights, May-October
Weekly divisions: Pro Stocks, Hobby Stocks, Mini Stocks, Enduro.

Highlights:
• Gritty, low-buck racing at its friendliest.
• Opened in 2012 as a non-profit corporation.
• Scenic Sierra Nevada location offers great camping at the fairgrounds.

 

Kern County Raceway Park

Bakersfield, CA
0.333-mile dirt oval
Select Saturday nights, March-October
Weekly divisions: Modifieds, American Stocks, Hobby Stocks, Sport Mods, Mod Lites

Highlights
• 2017 will be this track’s first full season of racing.
• Located outside turn four at KCRP’s half-mile paved NASCAR track.
• Featuring two events for NARC/winged 410ci sprints in 2017.

 

Kings Speedway

 Dominic Scelzi of Fresno makes a qualifying lap at Hanford driving his winged 360 sprint.

Dominic Scelzi of Fresno makes a qualifying lap at Hanford driving his winged 360 sprint.

Hanford, CA  • Kings County Fairgrounds
0.375-mile dirt clay oval
Most Friday nights, April-October
Weekly divisions: Winged 360ci Sprints, Modifieds, Sport Mods, Hobby Stocks, Mini Stocks

Highlights
• Features USAC, IMCA, NARC and World of Outlaws events.
• Exciting action on most nights with multiple “grooves” for racing.
• A Central Valley “racing hub”.
• Only track in the area with racing on Friday nights.

 

Marysville Raceway

 Hobby stocks battle at Marysville.

Hobby stocks battle at Marysville.

Marysville, CA
0.25-mile clay oval
Most Saturday nights, March-October
Weekly divisions: Winged 360ci Sprints, Wingless Sprints, Economy Sprints, Sport Mods, Stock Cars, Hobby Stocks.

Highlights
• Features IMCA, NARC and BCRA special events
• Action is fast and furious at this tight bullring.
• One of the few dirt tracks not located at a fairgrounds.
• Competitive weekly racing in all classes.

 

Merced Speedway

 “It’s not your grandma’s Mercury,” Merced track champ Mike Henault says of his Valley Sportsman Comet.

“It’s not your grandma’s Mercury,” Merced track champ Mike Henault says of his Valley Sportsman Comet.

Merced, CA • Merced County Fairgrounds
0.25-mile clay oval
Most Saturday nights, April-September
Weekly divisions: Modifieds, Sport Mods, Hobby Stocks, Mini Stocks, Valley Sportsman, Dwarf

Highlights
• Features IMCA and BCRA special events.
• The last track to host the Valley Sportsman, a vintage winged-stock car class with roots in the 1960s and ’70s.
• Refurbished clay track surface makes for exciting racing.
• Competitive weekly racing in all classes.

 

Ocean Speedway

 A pack of sprints battle through turn two at Watsonville.

A pack of sprints battle through turn two at Watsonville.

Watsonville, CA • Santa Cruz County Fairgrounds
0.25-mile clay oval
Most Friday nights, April-September
Weekly divisions: Winged 360ci Sprint Cars, Modifieds, Sport Mods, American Stock, Dwarf cars.

Highlights
• Features NARC, USAC, BCRA, IMCA and World of Outlaws events
• Summer nights can be cool with a marine layer blanketing the track.
• Competitive weekly racing in all classes.

 

Orland Raceway

 Pure stocks in action at Glenn County Fairgrounds.

Pure stocks in action at Glenn County Fairgrounds.

Orland, CA • Glenn County Fairgrounds
0.25-mile clay oval
Most Saturday nights, April-October
Weekly divisions: Pure Stocks, Micro Sprints, Mini Stocks, Mini Trucks.

Highlights
• Features low-buck racing in a family-friendly atmosphere.
• Unique combination of micro sprints and stock car racing.
• Tasty fairgrounds food.

 

Petaluma Speedway

 Race fans gets ready for a night at Petaluma.

Race fans gets ready for a night at Petaluma.

Petaluma, CA • Sonoma-Marin County Fairgrounds
0.375-mile clay oval
Most Saturday nights, March-October
Weekly divisions: Winged 360ci Sprints, Wingless Sprints, Modifieds, Super Stocks, Mini Stocks, Dwarf, Winged 600 Micro Sprints.

Highlights
• Features IMCA, NARC, USAC, and BCRA special events.
• The last of three remaining greater SF Bay Area ovals.
• Racing since 1963.
• Competitive weekly racing in all classes.

 

Placerville Speedway

 Once known as Hangtown Speedway, Placerville has been racing since 1965.

Once known as Hangtown Speedway, Placerville has been racing since 1965.

Placerville, CA • Placer County Fairgrounds
0.25-mile clay oval
Most Saturday nights, April-September
Weekly divisions: Winged 360ci Sprints, Limited Late Models, Pure Stock, Mini Trucks

Highlights
• Features World of Outlaws, NARC, IMCA, USAC, and BCRA special events.
• Tough track known for spawning national and regional racing talent.
• Since 1965, an open-wheel racing crossroads.
• Competitive weekly racing in all classes.

 

Silver Dollar Speedway

 410 winged sprint drivers “salute the fans” before the start of the World of Outlaws/Gold Cup at Chico.

410 winged sprint drivers “salute the fans” before the start of the World of Outlaws/Gold Cup at Chico.

Chico, CA • Silver Dollar Fairgrounds
0.25-mile clay oval
Most Friday nights, March-September
Weekly divisions: Winged 410ci Sprints, Modifieds, Wingless Sprints, Street Stocks

Highlights
• Features World of Outlaws, NARC, IMCA, USAC, and BCRA events.
• Only track in California to host the 410 winged sprints on a near-weekly schedule.
• Home of the prestigious Gold Cup Race of Champions.
• Competitive weekly racing in all classes.

 

Siskiyou Motor Speedway

 Anthony Whitaker and friends celebrate his mini stock victory at Yreka.

Anthony Whitaker and friends celebrate his mini stock victory at Yreka.

Yreka, CA • Siskiyou Golden Fairgrounds
0.25-mile dirt oval
Most Saturday nights, April-September
Weekly divisions: Modifieds, Sport Mods, Mini Stocks, Pro Stocks, Dwarf

Highlights
• A crossroads for racers from Nor-Cal and the Pacific Northwest.
• Features IMCA and NWSC special events.
• Laid-back atmosphere in the Shasta Valley .

 

Stockton Dirt Track

 Justin Sanders loses control of his 360 sprint at Stockton.

Justin Sanders loses control of his 360 sprint at Stockton.

Stockton, CA • San Joaquin County Fairgrounds
0.375-mile clay oval
Special events only, March-November

Highlights
• Features USAC, BCRA, NARC, IMCA and World of Outlaws events.
• Built inside of a horse track, the speedway first opened in 2013.
• Many regional series cap their seasons at Stockton in November.

 

Thunderbowl Raceway

 Sprint racer Dylan Black finds the ragged edge at Tulare.

Sprint racer Dylan Black finds the ragged edge at Tulare.

Tulare, CA • Tulare County Fairgrounds
0.333-mile clay oval
Special Events only, March-October

Highlights
• Well-known as a favorite track among drivers and fans.
• High-banks and long straights make this track extra fast and exciting.
• Features USAC, NARC, IMCA and World of Outlaws events.
• Home of the annual Trophy Cup event for winged 360 sprints.


PAVED OVALS

Paved ovals are scarce in this part of California but you can still catch some of the best grassroots and pro racing at these mostly thriving and surviving tracks. Featuring full-fender and open-wheel action, there’s racing somewhere every Saturday Night.
 

All American Speedway

 All American Speedway draws a capacity crowd for its NASCAR Pro Series West event.

All American Speedway draws a capacity crowd for its NASCAR Pro Series West event.

Roseville, CA • Placer County Fairgrounds
0.333-mile banked paved oval
Most Saturday nights, April-October
Weekly divisions: Modified, Late Model, Street Stock, Bomber, Legends, F4

Highlights
• Hosts special events for Pacific Challenge Series Late Models, North State Modifieds and NCMA sprints.
• Home to Northern California’s only NASCAR Pro Series West event.
• Less than 20 minutes from downtown Sacramento.
• Competitive weekly racing.

 

Kern County Raceway Park

 Qualifying at KCRP, Derek Thorn of Lakeport, is a NASCAR Pro Series West and Southwest Tour champion.

Qualifying at KCRP, Derek Thorn of Lakeport, is a NASCAR Pro Series West and Southwest Tour champion.

Bakersfield, CA
0.5-mile paved D-shaped, high-banked oval
Most Saturday nights, February-November
Weekly divisions: Late Models, Super Stocks, Spec Modifieds, Mini Stocks, legends, Bandoleros, Dwarfs

Highlights
• Brand new in 2013, the NASCAR-sanctioned speedway offers a shiny new racing facility.
• Raised 10 feet, the entire backstretch is visible from nearly any seat in the main grandstands.
• Driving his pavement 410ci sprint car, JoJo Helberg of Rohnert Park set the all-time KCRP track record with an average speed of over 125 mph in 2014.
• Features NASCAR Pro Series West, Southwest Tour, All American Series, and King of the Wing special events.
• Home of the Central Valley’s only NASCAR Pro Series West event.

 

Lakeport Speedway

 Lakeport Speedway, racing since 1948.

Lakeport Speedway, racing since 1948.

Lakeport, CA • Lake County Fairgrounds
0.25-mile paved oval
Most Saturday nights, April-September
Weekly divisions: Modifieds, Outlaw Late Models, Mini Stocks, Bombers, Bandoleros, Jammers, Legends

Highlights
• Racing since 1948, features action on a tight, nearly circular oval.
• Appearing for special events only, the BCRA Midgets have raced at Lakeport since it opened.
• Sanctioned by NCRA, Lakeport has a sister track in nearby Ukiah.
• Exciting weekly shows.

 

Madera Speedway

 The mighty modifieds get the green flag at Madera.

The mighty modifieds get the green flag at Madera.

Madera, CA • Madera District Fairgrounds
0.333-mile paved oval
Most Saturday nights, March-October
Weekly divisions: Super Modifieds, Modifieds, Midgets, Late Model, Open Late Model, Toyota Sedan, Hobby Stock, Mini Cup, Enduro, 4-banger

Highlights
• Features USAC, BCRA, NCMA, Southwest Tour, King of the Wing and North State Modified special events
• Offers a wide range of events for both open-wheel and stock car teams.
• Track promoter Kenny Shepherd was Madera’s 1993 Late Model champion.
• A well-run venue with tons of weekly action.

 

Redwood Acres Raceway

 Eureka’s main grandstand has been a part of the action since 1947.

Eureka’s main grandstand has been a part of the action since 1947.

Eureka, CA • Redwood Acres Fairgrounds
0.375-mile D-shaped paved oval
Most Saturday nights, May-September
Weekly divisions: Late Models, Bombers, Mini Stocks, Roadrunners, Legends, Thunder Roadsters

Highlights
• Features PCS Late Model Series and North State Modified special events.
• Racing since 1947, features historic grandstands made of redwood.
• Located just a few miles from downtown Eureka.
• Showcases thunder roadsters, a spec series featuring race cars with the look of 1960s-era Indy cars.

 

Stockton 99 Speedway

 Southwest Tour late models in staging for the main event at Stockton 99.

Southwest Tour late models in staging for the main event at Stockton 99.

Stockton, CA
0.25-mile paved oval
Most Saturday nights, March-October
Weekly divisions: Modifieds, Late Models, Bombers, Mini Cups, Pro Stocks, Dwarf

Highlights
• Opening in 1947, the track is one of the oldest in the West. It’s a survivor.
• Formerly NASCAR sanctioned, Stockton 99 has seen some of auto racing’s biggest names.
• Features PCS Late Model Series, North State Modified, BCRA and King of the Wing special events.
• Closed for demolition in 2006 and saved in 2009 by Central Valley farmer and track promoter Tony Noceti, a former driver.

 

Ukiah Speedway

 Bombers in the staging area at Ukiah.

Bombers in the staging area at Ukiah.

Ukiah, CA • Redwood Empire Fairgrounds
0.25-mile paved oval
Most Saturday nights, April-September
Weekly divisions: Modifieds, Outlaw Late Models, Mini Stocks, Bombers, Bandoleros, Jammers, Legends

Highlights
• High car counts, popular with racers.
• Features PCS Late Model Series and North State Modified events.
• Sanctioned by NCRA, Ukiah has a sister track in nearby Lakeport.
• Lively weekly racing.


For more about active tracks in the region, check out Guide to Northern & Central California Raceways, a local speedway guidebook by Saroyan Humphrey, a San Francisco-based photographer and art director.